Fatherland Knows Best By Emiliano Antunez -Price of Liberty
Fatherland Knows Best
By Emiliano Antunez

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October 29, 2007

It’s hard to fathom what Cuba is really like for those who actually live there. In order to get a feel for living on the island I have for years incessantly quizzed my parents, grandparents and other Cubans who have recently escaped the Island gulag. So imagine a discussion between Franz Kafka and George Orwell going on within the mind of Timothy Leary while he is tripping on acid and watching Salvador Dali’s movie Un Chien Andalou. That is what life in Cuba is like for most Cubans today.

Sending a child back to such a dark and convoluted environment perhaps borders on criminal, but who should ultimately decide where a child lives? The mother, the father, or the fatherland? Of these three who ultimately has the child’s best interest at heart?

In recent weeks, in a Miami courtroom, a battle has been waged over the custody of a five year old Cuban girl. Some have dubbed the case “Elian 2” after the six year old Cuban rafter whose custody battle attracted international attention (not to mention Janet Reno’s). But the gender is just one of the differences between Elian and his five year old protégé. In the case of Elian he was in the custody of relatives, the girl is in the custody of foster parents under the jurisdiction of The Department of Children and Families. Elian’s father had been married to his mother who had perished at sea on her voyage to the United States, the girl’s mother is alive but in a precarious mental state -that makes Britney spears seem sane and balanced- and she was never married to the girls’ father.

Unfortunately this case has many political undercurrents- what involving Cuban’s doesn’t- that must be examined closer. The foster parents are Joe and Maria Cubas (not to be confused with the island). Joe made a name for himself in the 1990s by assisting Cuban baseball players in their defection and representing them in their contract negotiations with Major League Baseball franchises (he was their agent). The attorneys for the Cuban father are Ira Kurzban and his wife Magda Montiel Davis. Mr. Kurzban is an immigration and naturalization attorney with unusually good relations with the regime in Havana, which has retained him on more than one occasion. Ms Davis is well known in South Florida, not so much for her immigration law practice but for being caught on film hugging Fidel Castro (Ira didn’t seem to mind) while telling him how much she admired him and that she looked upon Castro as her teacher (doesn’t say much for her education).

There is also the issue of ideology. Cuba is a communist country governed by Marxist doctrine which has always viewed the family as some sort of bourgeois instrument of control. Here in the United States the government views the family –despite much lip service to the contrary- as some sick, twisted, chaotic, unregulated and anarchic organization that must be tamed reeducated and regulated (Marx lite).

“Daddy does drugs.” Those weren’t the words of Tommy Chong’s daughter, but my own. My wife, surprised by such a statement, told my daughter that wasn’t true. “Yes he does,” she insisted, “He smokes tobacco (Cigars)” -thankfully she doesn’t know I also take PrevACID- and she explained that tobacco was on the list she received from her teacher during “say no to drugs” week. I’m looking forward to “say no to taxes” week myself. An innocent statement like my daughter's in the wrong place could subject me to a raid and interrogation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF - not to be confused with Cuba’s CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) or the KGB (Sorry No speak Russian).

I’m not the only parent that’s concerned with potential government intrusion into my family. Countless parents are threatened daily by their own children with a call to 911 simply because they were unhappy about being spanked, grounded or put in time out. Thirty plus years ago such a threat (or even thought) was unfathomable by children, but today our own government is on a mission to “perfect” the family.

Some in the Cuban exile community and at DCF have pointed to the girls’ father having allowed her to leave Cuba with her mother as a form of abandonment. Perhaps those Cubans pointing fingers today have forgotten Operation “Pedro Pan” (Peter Pan) in the early sixties when thousands of Cuban children were smuggled out of Cuba alone to the US with the consent of their parents in order to avoid communist indoctrination and obligatory military service (AKA the draft).

So what’s in the best interest of the five year old Cuban girl? Why did DCF place the child in such a politically charged case in the home of such a politically charged individual? How can the father afford to be away from work for so long? How can he afford his high powered attorneys? Is the girl more than a trophy to Joe Cubas, Ira Kurzban or the Castro regime? Will Fidel Castro be starring in the next remake of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead? I wish we had all the answers.

Regardless of how I or anyone else views Cuba’s current situation, unless the state can prove (not grounded on wild and baseless allegations or assumptions) that the child was abused by her father, he should be granted custody. I do not doubt that the Cubas family means well and has grown attached to the child, but we must be wary of setting dangerous precedents in our own country. The parents right over the custody of his or her own child should not be tread upon lightly or for political, economic or ideological reasons. My view of Cuba (or anyone else’s) is not necessarily that of the girl’s father and no one except himself can view his daughter or his home through his eyes.

Cuban exiles especially should take heed of Fredrick Nietzsche’s words “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

Emiliano Antunez, 41, DDS Degree UCE Dom Rep, semi anarchist, quasi-nihilist, and a touch of pragmatist, with a penchant (Midas touch) for business and clueless in politics (campaigned hard for mayor of Miami and got less than 1% of the vote “the masses are revolting”). Formerly on the Board of Miami Dade Housing and Finance Authority and currently serving on the board of the Overtown Community (in)Action Agency.


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